The New York Review of Books
ISIS After the Caliphate
October 19th, 2017, 11:24 AM
Our research team has been working on the front lines of the fight with ISIS since the beginning of 2015 to enhance policymakers’ access to field-based social science. We found that although ISIS has lost control of almost all majority-Sunni territory in Iraq, the group has imbued a generation of young Sunni Arabs with a strict belief in Sharia law as the only way to govern society; and this is a value they are willing to fight and die for. The people we interviewed and tested almost invariably associated democracy with human weakness and perfidy.
Return of The Freud Wars
October 19th, 2017, 11:24 AM
To the Editors: That Lisa Appignanesi would greet my book Freud: The Making of an Illusion with a snide polemic was foreseeable not only from her prior role with the Freud Museum, the very headquarters of the psychoanalytic legend, but also from her publicly expressed scorn for my earlier critiques of Freudian dogma.
The Irving Howe Lecture
October 19th, 2017, 11:24 AM
George Packer will deliver the twenty-second annual Irving Howe Memorial Lecture at 6:30 PM on Monday, November 20, at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue (at 34th Street). The subject is “Liberalism in the Age of Trump.”
The Master of Eglfing-Haar
October 18th, 2017, 11:24 AM
Should Eugen Gabritschevsky be called an outsider artist? The question hovers over his pictures, adding yet another level of mystery to them. In a number of obvious senses, he was certainly the opposite of the figures we generally think of as outsiders. Their bodies of work, if one can generalize, tend to emphasize (in quite different styles) lines, patterns, and structures. Gabritschevsky’s scenes in comparison are practically amorphous. He was also very different from many outsiders as a person.
If Heaven Ain’t a Lot Like Disney
October 18th, 2017, 11:24 AM
The Florida Project is a snapshot of chaos, focused on a heedlessly dissolute young mother and her rambunctious six-year-old daughter. Each wonderfully inventive in her way, the two are living week to week during summer vacation in a shabby $38-a-night motel on a strip just beyond the perimeter of Disney’s Magic Kingdom. The film is not hallucinatory but, for almost its entirety, Disney World can only be sensed as something that has irradiated the local landscape.
Myanmar: Marketing a Massacre
October 17th, 2017, 11:24 AM
All Rohingya were seen to be acting as one, the individual always in the service of the group. That inability to disaggregate one from the other has provided a lethal rationale for mass violence the world over, and it has formed a central pillar of the propaganda directed at the Rohingya since the late August insurgent attacks. Cartoons of machete-wielding Rohingya babies have circulated on social media, signalling a belief in an inborn malevolence that has had the effect of obliterating any distinction between young and old, violent and nonviolent.
Is Democracy in Europe Doomed?
October 16th, 2017, 11:24 AM
Too many people on the European left scoff at nationalism, mistaking their own distaste for evidence that the phenomenon no longer exists or is somehow illegitimate. If 2016 and 2017 have proven anything, it is that this sort of visceral nationalism, or loyalty to one’s in-group, still exists and is not going away. Those who dismiss this sort of national sentiment as backward and immature do so at their own peril. To dismiss the populist impulse as something completely alien is to miss the point and to preemptively lose the political debate.
So When Are You Getting Married?
October 15th, 2017, 11:24 AM
How insular a community is may be measured by its share of members who wish to appear on camera. When a casting call went out to New York’s ultra-Orthodox community, which numbers in the hundreds of thousands, to appear in Menashe, a feature film set in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, only sixty people showed up.
October 15th, 2017, 11:24 AM
How salmon love
sex enough to fight uphill in waters blasting
brilliant, some
one hundred mph (fact-checkers,
forget it, I’m close.) How we stood, old inkling
of such exhausting omg
Darwin would have...
Brexit: ‘Take Back Control’?
October 13th, 2017, 11:24 AM
It now seems unlikely that the UK government will secure a transitional agreement with the EU in time for businesses to postpone their plans to start leaving the UK or cutting their investments there. If so, the percentage of British voters who come to realize that Brexit represents a real threat to their jobs and incomes can only grow. If the last year and a half has revealed anything about British politics, it is the instability of public opinion. If the polling numbers start to move strongly against Brexit, the political class will surely take note and start moving toward the only solution that makes sense for Britain: to abandon the whole disastrous project altogether.
Trump’s War on Knowledge
October 12th, 2017, 11:24 AM
There has always been a disturbing strand of anti-intellectualism in American life, but never has an occupant of the White House exhibited such a toxic mix of ignorance and mendacity, such lack of intellectual curiosity and disregard for rigorous analysis. “The experts are terrible,” Donald Trump said during his campaign. “Look at the mess we’re in with all these experts that we have.” It is hardly surprising, then, that his administration is over-stocked with know-nothing fundamentalists.
The Cultural Axis
October 12th, 2017, 11:24 AM
We do not normally associate Hitler and Mussolini’s violent and aggressive regimes with “soft power.” But the two dictators were would-be intellectuals—Adolf Hitler a failed painter inebriated with the music of Wagner, and Mussolini a onetime schoolteacher and novelist. Unlike American philistines, they thought literature and the arts were important, and wanted to weaponize them as adjuncts to military conquest. Benjamin Martin’s illuminating book The Nazi-Fascist New Order for European Culture adds a significant dimension to our understanding of how the Nazi and Fascist empires were constructed.
Navalny, Anti-Rutabaga Candidate
October 12th, 2017, 11:24 AM
In a recent post on his website, referring to Putin's supposed approval polling, Aleksei Navalny, the charismatic anti-corruption crusader who has declared himself a candidate for the Russian presidency, commented: “The celebrated 86 percent rating [of Putin] exists in a political vacuum. It’s like asking someone who was fed only rutabaga all his life, how would you rate the edibility of rutabaga?” He was arrested in late September. The Kremlin is tearing its hair out over Navalny because of the prospect that a day will come when the Russian people realize they are sick of rutabaga and demand something else.
Catalonia on the Brink
October 11th, 2017, 11:24 AM
When thinking about Catalonia seeking independence, we circle back to metaphors. Romantic breakup or severed-limb mutilation, the language of feelings or the language of the body. What they all have in common is that in most cases breakups are irreparable and painful. In that, the other Catalans and Spaniards are right, too. At his point, nobody knows whether Catalonia will finally secede from Spain, but, if it comes to that, it will feel like the loss of a limb. And for many, the hurt will be unbearable.
Rushdie’s New York Bubble
October 10th, 2017, 11:24 AM
Whether by design, chance, or oracular divination, Salman Rushdie has managed, within a year of the 2016 election, to publish the first novel of the Trumpian Era. On purely technical merits this is an astounding achievement, the literary equivalent of Katie Ledecky lapping the Olympic field in the 1500-meter freestyle. The publishing industry still operates at an aristocratic pace; Egypt built the new Suez Canal in less time than it typically takes to convert a finished manuscript into a hardcover. Yet less than eight months into the administration, Rushdie has produced a novel that, if not explicitly about the president, is tinged a toxic shade of orange.
Iran: Trump’s Gift to the Hard-liners
October 10th, 2017, 11:24 AM
The more aggressive Trump’s posture in the Middle East becomes, the stronger the hard-liners’ argument against Iranian President Rouhani’s administration will be. This is not just about what the Iranian conservatives will win if Trump kills the nuclear deal, but what America will lose. The blow to Iran’s moderate forces will be far more consequential than Bush’s “axis of evil” declaration and the rejection of Iran's 2003 bargain proposal. It will take years, perhaps decades, before anyone in the Iranian political elite will dare to suggest any accommodation with Washington.
Consciousness: An Object Lesson
October 9th, 2017, 11:24 AM
Manzotti: Perhaps it’s time to ditch the word “consciousness” and simply talk about experience....Your body is such a thing and when your body is there, an apple is there, too. Not an apple reproduced like a photo in your head. An apple there on the table, in relation with your body. Parks: So, anything the body experiences as an effect—which is to say, anything it experiences—is an object?
Dialogue With God
October 9th, 2017, 11:24 AM
What is the correct reaction when we open the Confessions? It should, perhaps, be one of acute embarrassment. For we have stumbled upon a human being at a primal moment—standing in prayer before God. Having intruded on Augustine at his prayers, we are expected to find ourselves pulled into them, as we listen to a flow of words spoken, as if on the edge of an abyss, to a God on the far side—to a being, to all appearances, vertiginously separate from ourselves. The measure of the success of Sarah Ruden’s translation is that she has managed to give as rich and as diverse a profile to the God on the far side as she does to the irrepressible and magnetically articulate Latin author who cries across the abyss to Him.
How Uber Stalled in London
October 7th, 2017, 11:24 AM
Until London’s regulatory pushback, Uber had thrived in Britain. The interests of the public, as consumers, were understood to be intrinsically bound together with those of this Silicon Valley disrupter in a struggle against restrictive business practices. Yet the past now appears to be exacting its revenge. Or, to be more precise, the future may not look as laissez faire as Uber’s champions would have us believe.
Ireland’s Big Choice
October 6th, 2017, 11:24 AM
It would seem that the ruling conservative party, Fine Gael, has already decided that there will be no great liberalizing of abortion laws in Ireland, no matter the unexpectedly liberal results of a recent Citizens' Assembly vote. If this is indeed how it plays out, aside from the implications for women’s health, it will mean the party will have disregarded a meticulous exercise in deliberative democracy that it put in place (at considerable cost to the taxpayer), simply because it wasn’t satisfied with the results or because those results were not politically expedient. 
Disarming the NRA
October 5th, 2017, 11:24 AM
The Second Amendment does not stand in the way of better gun laws; the NRA does. The NRA can still count on an influential bloc of intense single-issue, anti-gun-control voters to sway members of Congress, and on the Trump White House to appoint justices committed to the expansion of gun rights. Yet just as electoral politics, rather than the words of the Second Amendment, is the source of the NRA’s power, the democratic process is how the NRA can be defeated. Change is possible. But it won’t come from gutting the Second Amendment. It will come from the same type of political mobilization that gave us the modern NRA.
The Adults in the Room
October 5th, 2017, 11:24 AM
What does it mean to be an “adult” in Washington in general, or, in particular, under Donald Trump? What policies do the “adults” favor? Where do they come from, and what do they believe? Most importantly, what is the significance of the fact that most of Trump’s so-called grownups come from the military? To answer such questions, it helps to look at the history, both of the way the idea of “adults” has been used in Washington in the past and of the way military officers in the US have served in top civilian jobs.
Freud’s Clay Feet
October 5th, 2017, 11:24 AM
Frederick Crews has a loyalty of preoccupation rare in a literary academic. His attacks on Sigmund Freud began way back in the mid-1970s with his publicly proclaimed conversion away from the Freudian literary criticism he practiced at the time. His new biography, Freud: The Making of an Illusion, damning and mesmerizing by turns, is about the young Freud. It marks the zenith of what has become Crews’s crusade “to put an end to the myth of psychoanalysis and its creator” by stripping Freud of both his empiricist credentials and the image of a “lone explorer possessing courageous perseverance, deductive brilliance, tragic insight, and healing power.” The idealization of Freud the man that Crews is so keen to prove a blinding illusion is hardly prevalent.
Mapping Ancient Rome
October 5th, 2017, 11:24 AM
To the Editors: Andrea Carandini stands out from other scholars who have studied ancient Rome over the last forty years in his enthusiasm for creating visual reconstructions of the early city and in his fascination with Romulus as a figure in history. Mary Beard had her hands full in reviewing The Atlas of Ancient Rome, and, on the whole, she ably rose to the challenge. I would like to offer two brief comments that may help to round out the story.
How The Terror Felt
October 5th, 2017, 11:24 AM
To the Editors: Colin Jones, in his review of Timothy Tackett’s The Coming of the Terror in the French Revolution, ignores the role of the popular movement on the left that opposed the dictatorship of Maximilien Robespierre and the Terror. Neither Tackett nor Jones is unusual in this.
More Rules of Impeachment
October 5th, 2017, 11:24 AM
To the Editors: I write to clear up misconceptions about the Constitution, the law, and my book in the review of The Case for Impeachment. The reviewers’ most serious error, with profound implications for current debates, is their claim that impeachment is inapplicable to offenses occurring prior to the presidency. The reviewers cite no authorities for this proposition and ignore the lack of any such limitation in the Constitution.
Thoreau In Translation
October 5th, 2017, 11:24 AM
To the Editors: I was surprised at Robert Pogue Harrison’s assertion in “The True American” that “Thoreau hardly makes it onto the list of notable American authors outside his home country,” and that “his peculiar brand of American nativism has little international appeal.” In fact, Thoreau’s international reception is both broad and deep at this summer’s mark of his bicentennial.
Referendums: Yes or No?
October 5th, 2017, 11:24 AM
Behind referendums and plebiscites lies the idea of popular sovereignty. The key factor in referendums is who has the right to call them. Formally, the Kurdish and Catalan referendums were both illegal because neither the Iraqi nor the Spanish government licensed them. Some places—California and Switzerland among them—have for many years granted a specified minimum of petitioners the right to hold a referendum. But now, globalized social media are transforming the whole ballot initiative question.
Master Class
October 4th, 2017, 11:24 AM
For Elizabeth Hardwick, literary criticism had to be up there with its subjects; real literature should elicit criticism worthy of the achievement in question. We got that from her straight off. The kind of modern literary criticism she was talking about—Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Edmund Wilson, Randall Jarrell, R.P. Blackmur, John Berryman, F.W. Dupee, Mary McCarthy—was as stimulating as the work it was exploring. Then, too, she wanted us to take seriously the essay as a form. The American essay—Thoreau, Emerson—was an important part of American history.
Agnès Varda’s Double Portrait
October 4th, 2017, 11:24 AM
Faces Places is an unexpected—and perhaps final—gift from the visionary eighty-nine-year-old director Agnès Varda. As a collaboration with her youthful co-director, JR, an artist famous for his monumental installations of black-and-white photo portraits, the film is a double portrait. It also has a double subject: the unexpected delights and discoveries of documenting the lives of the people they encounter in corners of France, and of the bittersweet, and inevitably transitory, friendship making this film creates between the two artists, travelers in different centuries, looking at the world together and experiencing each other.
The Chinese World Order
October 2nd, 2017, 11:24 AM
Beijing cares chiefly about political stability at home and economic access abroad, and not about promoting its authoritarian political model to the rest of the world. Nor do China’s leaders seek, as some have suggested, to expel the United States from Asia, or to “rule the world.” They are, however, pursuing two goals that clash fundamentally with important American interests.
Myanmar: The Invention of Rohingya Extremists
October 2nd, 2017, 11:24 AM
The demonization of the Sunni Muslim Rohingya minority as "extremists" or "terrorists" has proved effective for nationalist politicians with Myanmar’s Buddhist majority. But this othering of the Rohingya now risks dangerous secondary effects. Chiefly, that the government’s conjuring of the specter of a jihadist insurgency may prove self-fulfilling, with an embittered, radicalized Rohingya diaspora forced over the border at bayonet point into Bangladesh, where a coterie of Islamist groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir are using the Rohingya cause to whip up popular sentiment for their own political purposes.
Moses in Mexico
October 1st, 2017, 11:24 AM
It is good to see Cristobal de Villalpando’s huge altarpiece at the Met placed at the very center of the Robert Lehman wing, where it can be admired from two levels, top-lit by daylight. At just over twenty-eight feet high by fourteen feet wide, it benefits from isolation, both from the objects in the Lehman collection and from the small selection of lesser works by Villalpando exhibited in their own gallery nearby. The lower half of the crowded composition depicts Moses raising the Brazen Serpent; the upper, the Transfiguration of Jesus. What we are not shown is the way it is displayed in its permanent Mexican home (for which it was painted) in Puebla cathedral.
Kinds of Blue Black
September 30th, 2017, 11:24 AM
The exhibition that I curated at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation this year, “Blue Black," explores the space between Ellsworth Kelly’s Blue Black and Louis Armstrong’s “Black and Blue,” using them as bookends for an inquiry into how these two colors have been employed within a wide range of artistic practices. The exhibition was conceived as a meditation on the formal, political, and metaphysical ways the colors have been used, and an attempt to reveal the conversations artists have set up between them.
This Empty House
September 29th, 2017, 11:24 AM
One may wind up concluding that by far the most terrifying thing about Mother! is that Darren Aronofsky seems to be Hollywood’s idea of an intellectual, our own brainy, home-grown auteur. Aronofsky isn’t much interested in these people’s complexity or humanity, but purely in his own big concepts. Of course, it’s possible to have characters and ideas; it’s a great gift of narrative art.
Kate Millett: ‘Sexual Politics’ & Family Values
September 29th, 2017, 11:24 AM
Kate Millett invented feminist literary criticism. Her urgent, elegant 1970 masterwork, Sexual Politics introduced a new and remarkably durable idea: you could interpret literature in light of its gender dynamics. You may wonder whether literature is the right medium for consciousness-raising, but you can’t deny that Millett made reading a life-changing, even world-changing, act. She is owed a posthumous apology for the shameful way she was pushed out of the limelight.
A Carnival of Desecration
September 27th, 2017, 11:24 AM
Donald Trump has the most recognizable profile of any American president since Richard Nixon. Yet, as a cartoonist of my acquaintance has complained, artists are having a hard time caricaturing Trump, mostly likely because he already is a caricature—one reflected in mass culture’s fun-house mirror for close to forty years. We’re sick of Trump and we’re sick of being sick of him. Well-populated by images of the president, Peter Saul’s new show “Fake News” is hardly a palliative, but it does illustrate the crass absurdity of the current moment.
A New European Narrative?
September 26th, 2017, 11:24 AM
Six recent books argue that a new narrative, or a new European political project, or an institutional revolution, is exactly what Europe needs. It’s not hard to understand why. The continent is plagued by crises that cannot be solved by any one European nation acting on its own: the arrival of millions of migrants, the rise of terrorism, the spread of international corruption, the imbalances created by the single currency, the high youth unemployment in some regions, the challenge from a revanchist Russia. At the same time, Europe, like the American states before they adopted the Constitution in 1789, still has no political mechanisms that can create joint solutions to any of these problems. A common European foreign and defense policy is still a pipe dream; a common border is difficult to enforce; a common economic policy is still far away.
Afghanistan: What Troops Can’t Fix
September 26th, 2017, 11:24 AM
In the past, Afghan-related initiatives taken by US presidents, whether at the UN or at NATO summits, met with immediate backing from European and other allies. This time, there was not a single ally who publicly praised or endorsed Trump’s Afghan policy. The most enthusiastic backer of Trump’s proposals was, not surprisingly, the beleaguered President Ashraf Ghani. The Afghan president adroitly gave Trump the ultimate accolade: that his Afghan policy was better than Obama’s.
Who Killed the ERA?
September 26th, 2017, 11:24 AM
How did the Equal Rights Amendment, an effort born in bipartisanship, end in polarizing defeat? Clearly, the ERA prompted a profound debate about the place of women not only in the workforce but in the home, the family, and society itself, in the course of which the amendment became entangled with the rise of the religious right that helped to bring about Reagan’s electoral sweep. Was the ERA the cause of polarization or its victim? Or did it turn out to be something else: a catalyst for positive change in legislative and judicial attitudes?
Germany’s Election: Choosing the Unspeakable
September 25th, 2017, 11:24 AM
The apparent calm of the election belied the real concerns of the German public, concerns evident in the election results. Chancellor Angela Merkel barely campaigned. To the eyes of the public, the two major parties seemed nearly identical. This provided the far-right party with an opening to be the opposition. If people turned to a party that said the unspeakable, it was partly because very speakable things weren’t being said at all.
The Art of Wrath
September 24th, 2017, 11:24 AM
The very first line of the Iliad forces any English-language translator to decide immediately and to declare conspicuously whether he would rather be caught betraying his poet or his own language. The opening word, mēnin, wrath, is the subject of the long poem that follows, but not of the long sentence it begins. This word order in the original creates a markedly stylized but not a strained effect. Poetic Greek can bring off putting the potent single thematic word first and then proceeding to other parts of the sentence, placed in an order that satisfies the demands of rhetoric and versification. Not English, where “man bites dog” means that man bites dog and not the other way around.
Nuclear Apocalypse Now?
September 22nd, 2017, 11:24 AM
The most telling aspect of Trump’s UN speech was, after threatening to “totally destroy North Korea,” his calling the possibility of nuclear conflict “unthinkable.” On the contrary, we must think about it. And crucial to any understanding of the moral import of the possible use of nuclear weapons is to go back to the foundational moment of this nuclear age and ask again: Were Hiroshima and Nagasaki war crimes?
Splendid Isolation
September 22nd, 2017, 11:24 AM
Christopher Nolan’s epic movie about the rescue of the British army from the beaches of northeastern France in May 1940 has become a worldwide box office success. This is splendid news for its makers, and can do no harm to American, Taiwanese, or for that matter Rajput audiences. In the eyes of some of us, however, its impact upon the British people is calamitous at this moment in our fortunes. Dunkirk contains no foreigners except a few understandably grumpy French soldiers. It is a British tale that feeds the myth that has brought Churchill’s nation to the cliff edge of departure from the European Union: there is splendor in being alone.
John Ashbery (1927–2017)
September 21st, 2017, 11:24 AM
His reading voice maintained an imperturbable meandering pace, never succumbing to declamation or melodrama or the pregnant pauses of needier poets but issuing a steady stream of words in unexpected patterns, so that young poets would attend his readings not just to hear him but to furtively scribble the images and lines his had touched off in their own fugue states.
Ruth Asawa: Tending the Metal Garden
September 21st, 2017, 11:24 AM
When the Black Mountain College artist Ruth Asawa debuted her wire sculptures in New York in the Fifties, critics dismissed them as decorative or housewifely. Yet the universal implications of Asawa’s work are owed to the particularities of her struggle at a Japanese internment camp. Asawa sought to evoke “transparent geometries” found in nature: the scales of a butterfly wing, a spiderweb, a wasp’s nest, or a reef of coral.
September 21st, 2017, 11:24 AM
To the Editors: In “What Are Impeachable Offenses?” Noah Feldman and Jacob Weisberg present a scholarly review of Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution of the United States. They claim that a self-pardon, “would be ineffectual because no judge would regard it as valid.” I believe the authors are wrong.
Dealing with the Enemy
September 21st, 2017, 11:24 AM
To the Editors: Jessica Mathews’s thoughtful review of my book Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran, and the Triumph of Diplomacy provides excellent insights into the complexities of dealing with Iran and North Korea. Our one area of disagreement is the role of sanctions. The issue is not whether sanctions were effective in hurting Iran’s economy—which they clearly were—or whether they provided America with leverage—which they clearly did. Rather, the question that rarely gets asked is what the alternative costs to sanctions are.
John Berryman’s Letters
September 21st, 2017, 11:24 AM
To the Editors: We are currently coediting a volume of John Berryman’s literary correspondence. We believe some of your readers may possess unpublished letters from the poet, and we would like to consider these for inclusion in our volume. If readers believe they have material that would be of use, we would be grateful if they could contact us.
When Dissent Became Treason
September 20th, 2017, 11:24 AM
As our newspapers and TV screens overflow with choleric attacks by President Trump on the media, immigrants, and anyone who criticizes him, it makes us wonder: What would it be like if nothing restrained him from his obvious wish to silence, deport, or jail such enemies? For a chilling answer, we need only roll back the clock one hundred years, to the moment when the United States entered not just a world war, but a three-year period of unparalleled censorship, mass imprisonment, and anti-immigrant terror.
The Passport of Whiteness
September 20th, 2017, 11:24 AM
Everyone knows we are a nation of immigrants, that immigrants are good for the economy, and that freedom seekers are our kin. What I find sad is that we all know this history. We did not think the ideal of liberal democracy, the open society, would have to be fought for all over again. We are so spoiled we thought that it just grew naturally with everything else we have in our gardens of relative good fortune.